From Our Wordsmiths Newsletter – 4 Questions Agents Ask At Pitch Sessions

You’ve gone to a writer’s conference and have signed up to speak face-to-face with an agent. How do you prepare? What questions will you be asked, besides the obvious: What is your current book about?

Here is some sage advice from picture book writer Lisa Katzenberger, who has had some interesting—and surprising—questions thrown at her over the years of her career:

1. Are you working on anything else?

This is one of the standard questions at a pitch session. Agents want to know that you have staying power, that you are serious about writing and that you are not just a one-book wonder. If you don’t have anything else on the writing stove, you just might not be ready for publishing. It is rare for a first manuscript to be published; we learn by doing and each book will be stronger that the one before it.

2. Who are your favorite authors?

From your answer, agents will learn two things. First, who has influenced you, your themes, your style. Do you read modern authors, or only older ones who might not be publishable in today’s market? Secondly, your answer indicates if your are as passionate about reading as you are about writing. A stumble on this question might indicate you dream about writing a book but haven’t done enough reading to understand what makes a good story. Rattling off a list of authors you adore shows you appreciate storytelling, and the lessons you picked up will spill into your own narratives. Make sure you include authors who are hot in the current market along with your sentimental favorites.

3. What kind of writer are you?

This is a wonderful open-ended question. Often agents want to know if your story is character, plot or theme driven. It an be genre-specific. But it can also lead to discussions of writing discipline, consistency, themes explored, etc. How do you describe yourself as a writer? What are the themes you explore, who is your audience, do you envision a series of stand-alones or have you created a world around a series character?

4. Where did this story come from?

Consider not only the trigger that started the idea, but also the deeper layers of where did this story come from inside you. What are the themes of the subplots? What emotions are you trying to convey to your readers? What made you have to tell this particular story?

You may or may not ever be asked these specific questions, but answering them for yourself will help you learn about yourself as a writer and become more thoughtful about the stories you write.

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One thought on “From Our Wordsmiths Newsletter – 4 Questions Agents Ask At Pitch Sessions

  1. “Do you read modern authors, or only older ones who might not be publishable in today’s market?”

    Yes, it’s likely true that some “older” authors might not be publishable in today’s market. Especially the “older” authors who were so much more talented than today’s rush of automatic authors. The so-called E-Revolution began by opening the gates to a flood of mediocre talents (yes, a tsunami of crap). That flood is nowadays, thank goodness, supplied by the smaller size of a wide river. I hope that one day before I die that river will become a trickling stream. The drawbridge needs to be raised if we are ever again to see the high quality writing that “older” authors offered us. So there. I, too, am opinionated.

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